Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Racing Jalapenos

I was out drinking with some mates after work back in September, and sometime after the third round conversation abruptly and unexpectedly turned to this very literary masterpiece, yours truly, Le Vegging Gardener. I know, I was surprised too - cause I wasn't even the one who brought it up. My mate, otherwise fondly known as The Wombat, told me that his disillusionment in supermarket chilli had lead him to pot a Jalapeno plant on his apartment balcony. A first-time jalapenos grower, he'd visited the blog and left bitterly disappointed, as while the Jalapeno regularly features in my garden, it hasn't so much on said blog. So never wanting to disappoint, I said I'd buy a plant and write about it.
And this is where the true genius comes in: The Wombat says to me "We'll have a race!".

So nursing a 'mild' hangover I walked into my local nursery the next morning, and walked out twenty minutes later with this punnet of jalapenos for $2.49. (Not bad huh? Jalapenos regularly cost $29.95/Kg)I could have picked one larger plant for the same price, but decided take the more economical option and try a few different planting options. And anyway, if you knew nothing about the form, you'd always bet on the guy who had the seven horses in an eight horse race, right?

Like all peppers, jalapenos like a warmish soil - so September wasn't a bad time to kick off the racing season. I planted in three separate locations: Three plants went in the herb garden where there's pretty much all day sun year round - this spot is warm and sheltered, and in the past has produced jalapeno even in winter. Three went in a slightly shadier, more open position - I didn't expect such great results here, and only in Summer. The final plant I put in a black pot (I figured it would keep the soil warm either side of summer), which I placed with all the other pot plants on death row. I have a terrible track record with anything that grows in pots - I'm pretty time poor, so anything that needs more than an occasional look in wouldn't want to find itself in the waiting line in my yard.

Site #1: The Herb Garden
Site #2: The forward retaining wall
On The Green Mile
All plants started in a hole with a good helping of moo poo and a handful of blood and bone. Being a little rushed to get off the mark, I didn't get around to checking the soil acidity - but I'm fairly happy that almost every part of my garden posts a neutral pH, which is just a little above the 5.5 - 6 ideal, and certainly not tragic for chilli.

So some ten weeks into competition, where are my seven horses?

Only one of three in the herb garden is really performing, it's tall and green, while the other two are shorter and a little more sickly in colour - They're all flowering. There's not an awful lot of difference between where they're planted, so it's hard to say why there's such a big difference.

Two plants remain at site #2. The plant that fell behind did so quite early in the game, and the slugs did the rest. The remaining two are tall and strong, and are covered in bloom. I have supports ready in place to carry the weight of the branches as the fruit forms.

Then there's the saddest little pea in the pod. The victim in the pot. It fell out of the starting blocks and has pretty much laid there crying ever since. I suspect its got a lot to do with the size of the pot as much as it does the lack of regular feeding and water that a potted plant requires.

But all things considered, a few losses isn't anything to cry about - for the amount of jalapenos we eat, I only need a single plant to cover our usage. I really was expecting most of the plants to be chewed to the ground by slugs in the first week. So if you like Jalapenos and you happen to be my friend - Well. Its going to be a good year for you.

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